Different neural activations for an approaching friend versus stranger: Linking personal space to numerical cognition

Orly Rubinsten, Nachshon Korem, Anat Perry, Miri Goldberg, Simone Shamay-Tsoory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Typically, humans place themselves at a preferred distance from others. This distance is known to characterize human spatial behavior. Here, we focused on neurocognitive conditions that may affect interpersonal distances. The current study investigated whether neurocognitive deficiencies in numerical and spatial knowledge may affect social perception and modulate personal space. Method: In an event-related potential (ERP) study, university students with developmental dyscalculia (DD) and typically developing control participants were given a computerized version of the comfortable interpersonal distance task, in which participants were instructed to press the spacebar when they began to feel uncomfortable by the approach of a virtual protagonist. Results: Results showed that students with deficiencies in numerical and spatial skills (i.e., DD) demonstrated reduced variability in their preferred distance from an approaching friend. Importantly, DD showed decreased amplitude of the N1 wave in the friend condition. Conclusion: These results suggest that people coping with deficiencies in spatial cognition have a less efficient allocation of spatial attention in the service of processing personal distances. Accordingly, the study highlights the fundamental role of spatial neurocognition in organizing social space.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01613
JournalBrain and Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work by O. Rubinsten was supported by the Israel Science Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Brain and Behavior published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • dyscalculia
  • event-related potential
  • social space
  • spatial processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Different neural activations for an approaching friend versus stranger: Linking personal space to numerical cognition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this